The Northman

The Northman ★★★★

I’m a stickler for atmosphere-before-plot moviemaking and a cloud of ambiguity to boot. These days, the rules in Syd Field’s Foundations of Screenplay Writing are for minimizing and defying, and Director Robert Eggers is our current front runner to the cause.

Although Eggers’s latest vision in The Northman doesn’t probe or tease its narrative verisimilitude like The Lighthouse (2019) or The Witch (2015), it’s just as dark, brooding, and unpredictably engrossing. On the surface, it’s an A.D. 895 Norwegian viking avenge film molded out of Hamlet. Underneath, there are guts of testosterone-saturated brutalism, animal spiritualism, and poisonous sorcery. If Disney+ had an evil twin brother, this would be it, and that’s a compliment if you find CGI and superheroes redundant.

Eggers’s camera soars through battle scenes with the same “grace” as Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015). And, with the symbolism and literal depiction of the family tree similar to Aronofksy’s The Fountain (2005), the story is all the more alluring. Eggers obviously has his influences, but his trademark in animalism and its reversed survival of the fittest is entirely his.

Not for everyone, The Northman challenges the viewer to follow the revenge of the flesh while also knowing how intrinsically wicked that venture may become. There is no one to root for, and the same animals that mocked humanity’s pride in The Witch and The Lighthouse, scoff at The Northman as well.

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